The VLA News – November 2012 issue will be released tomorrow around lunch time. Below is my editorial, which is all about NaNoWriMo. Perhaps it will assuage my guilt about not participating this year:

A couple years ago, I was a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the original month-long writing challenge. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days for the month of November. These participants spend a lot of time by themselves in front of their computers and sometimes they just need to get out and be glued to their screens w ith others in the struggle.

The municipal liaison is responsible for coordinating events for their region. We are a sparsely populated state, so by national standards we are considered one region. However, as we all know, VT is 3-6 regions depending on who you ask. Municipa l liaisons tend to be in or near Chittenden County, where the bulk of participants usually are, and as such have a difficult time finding or suggesting places for write-ins and kick-off/thank-goodness-it’s-over parties outside of Burlington. Every year there are woeful cries of “is anyone writing in [my town] or [my school]?!?!” There are a lot of young folks who participate, so finding places that are all ages can be a real challenge.

This is where you come in! Participants don’t often think to ask libraries or are afraid they’ll be turned down despite the fact that NaNoWriM o encourages participants to write-in at libraries. A typical write-in involves folks quietly typing away on their laptops punctuated by periods of delirious chattering. They need tables and chairs, access to outlets, free wifi, and the freedom to drink caffeinated beverages and leftover halloween candy.

Most of all, they just need to be invited. Think about reaching out to the Vermont community, or VerWriMos, and offer your library for write-ins! VerWriMos can be reached by signing up for a login on the Nano site and subscribing to the Vermont Regional forum. You will see all the activity happening statewide and be able to offer your services. Official forums are the primary way that participants communicate.

If you don’t want to join, you can always shoot a message to Kevin McLaughlin, the Vermont municipal liaison, and he’ll post your offer of space. You can also pop on the VerWriMos Facebook page. The national organization will happily work with you to enrich the Nano experience at your library! Check out their Library Outreach Guide.

Are you thinking about joining in the crazy-pants writing fun? Do it! I’m taking a break this year, but I can’t recommend it enough for folks who a) need an impetus to get writing and/or b ) just enjoy embarking on wild journeys. Maybe novel writing isn’t your thing (it isn’t mine, I always disregarded the word Novel and replaced it with Non-Fiction, which is evidently a widely recognized rebellion). Many other challenges have been born of NaNoWriMo, and they aren’t all about writing. I’m considering a couple that aren’t even on the list, including Digital Writing Month (DigiWriMo) and Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo). Pick your poison.

Helen Linda
VLA News Editor/Editorial Committee Chair
NETSL President
Systems & Tech Services Librarian, Goddard College

If you want to receive the current issue of the VLA News, you need to be an active member of VLA. You can read VLA News Back Issues at the VLA Website regardless of whether you are a member or not.

The VLA News – August 2012 issue was just released this evening. Below is my editorial, wherein I wax philosophic about library committee work for the greater good:

Vermont librarians have been talking off and on about the need to address diversity and inclusive practices as a profession in this state. The issue for Vermont is this: given our traditional commitment to issues of fairness and diversity practices, it is frequently assumed that this kind of work isn’t needed here anymore. Committee work usually involves creating a safe space for librarians and generating services to patrons who identify with, or as part of, marginalized groups. In recent years these types of committees are in decline; not just in New England but everywhere. Why?

One answer could be that groups formed around ideas naturally struggle more than those formed around the commonality of work. Generally speaking, sections about Youth Librarians or Technical Services thrive by binding members to each other by work practices. Those groups that focus on the Big Ideas, like Intellectual Freedom and Diversity, are bound by a commitment to the idea but can lose focus in the action phase when we all work in different environments and communities that have different needs.

This is where we look outward. VLA has a blindingly successful Intellectual Freedom Committee because they balance beautifully the need to be a safe space for librarians experiencing challenges, providing resources to patrons so that they know their rights and who can help, and projecting librarianship outward to represent the profession to other professions and communities. They go out there–to our government representatives, to other organizations–and do the work outside the library, not just in it. It’s a vibrant cyclical process that keeps the VLA’s commitment to Intellectual Freedom nationally recognized!

Diversity and inclusion groups need to take a page out of VLA IFC’s playbook. We can serve as a safe space and a resource, but to be strongest we must get out of the library. We need to represent librarianship to communities from within, instead of waiting for them to come to us. At the VLA Board Retreat on Wednesday, August 1st, the board voted to begin a committee, name to be determined, that will focus on issues of diversity and inclusionary practices. If you are interested in going on this journey with us, please contact Kat Redniss at kat@brownelllibrary.org.

I have decided to get started by marching in the Pride VT 2012 Pride Parade in Burlington on September 22nd. It’s important that we are out there sending the message librarians are proud members and supporters of the queer community. My vision is to build a float with a “Librarian Ship” that fights a “Censor Ship.” It shoots banned/challenged books from cannons. There would ideally be a book cart drill team giving out banned/challenged books to the crowd. It’s a deliciously goofball idea. If you want to be a part of some fun community building, let me know atcelestihel@gmail.com and we’ll make something happen. Many hands make light work and my vision isn’t the only one: what’s the float of your dreams?

Helen Linda
VLA News Editor/Editorial Committee Chair
NETSL President
Systems & Tech Services Librarian, Goddard College

If you want to receive the current issue of the VLA News, you need to be an active member of VLA. You can read VLA News Back Issues at the VLA Website regardless of whether you are a member or not.

The VLA News – May 2012 issue is hot off the presses. Below is my editorial, wherein I discover a magic balm for my student loan debt:

If you pursued higher education, especially in the last decade or two, then you’re likely in the same boat as me. My boat is barely staying afloat! I’m talking debt here; staggering I-can’t-believe-I’m-not-a-lawyer-at-this-price-point debt. Among the reasons someone might not get an MLS, the vast majority just can’t afford it. Those of us that were willing to mortgage our futures are finding there isn’t a chance we’ll ever recoup those expenses.

But lo! There actually is real hope, real help! I found out about it in the most unlikely way: at Essex Cinemas’ Throwback Thursdays for the showing of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I ran into an old friend from high school and the subject of continuing education and our respective debt loads came up. She works for the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) and was shocked that I didn’t know about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF).

I looked it up and thought I couldn’t be qualified and I’ll tell you why: semantics. When I read the description of the program, it listed “public education or public library services” and “school library and other school-based services” as qualifying. In libraryland “school” means something different than it does to the federal government. As an academic librarian, I might have assumed I wasn’t eligible. Good thing I asked, because now there is a bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel!

As someone who is on an Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan for loans, mine are getting bigger every year. However, since I’ve consolidated my loans with Federal Direct Consolidation Loans, which is required and saved me money anyway, PSLF will forgive my loans after 10 years of qualifying payments during full-time employment at any kind of school or public library. My IBR counts and payments need not be consecutive but don’t begin until I start paying with Direct. I just have to have my HR department sign a form that verifies my employment, though I confess I haven’t done this part yet so it still feels too good to be true! So, instead of dying with these loans, I might actually be able to shed them in my early 40s. I mean, retirement might actually be on the table for the first time! And that is worth crowing about.

Additionally, there are some options for getting your MLS that are less expensive. First, you get a 20% discount at Drexel as a member of VLA. Second, the University of Southern Connecticut recently announced that they’re offering in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students if they start their program this summer, which applies to the Information & Library Science Department. Lastly, if you are looking to start or finish up your BA so that you can get an MLS, Simmons now offers a four year combo degree, which saves you having to pay separately for your BA and MLS.

So, if you have student loans that have kept you from getting your MLS, or if you got it and you are drowning in it, or you’re afraid to take on loans because of all the stories about heartbreaking levels of debt, don’t despair. There’s hope for all of us!

Helen Linda
VLA News Editor/Editorial Committee Chair
NETSL President
Systems & Tech Services Librarian, Goddard College

If you want to receive the current issue of the VLA News, you need to be an active member of VLA. You can read VLA News Back Issues at the VLA Website regardless of whether you are a member or not.